OBASI IBENYE & ORS VS ABRAM AGWU & ANOR (1998)

OBASI IBENYE & ORS VS ABRAM AGWU & ANOR

(1998) LCN/2804(SC)

In the Supreme Court of Nigeria

Friday, September 18, 1998


Case Number: SC. 77/1992

 

JUSTICES:

SALIHU M. ALFA BELGORE JUSTICE, SUPREME COURT

ABUBAKAR B. WALI,JUSTICE, SUPREME COURT

IDRIS L. KUTIGI JUSTICE, SUPREME COURT

MICHAEL E. OGUNDARE JUSTICE, SUPREME COURT

EMMANUEL O. OGWUEGBU JUSTICE, SUPREME COURT

 

APPELLANTS

1. OBASI IBENYE

2. NWAZUO AGBARA

3. MICHAEL ONYEUKU

4. REUBEN NDUKWE

(FOR THEMSELVES AND ON BEHALF OF IHIE COMMUNITY NDUME IBEKU)

 

RESPONDENTS

1. ABRAM AGWU

2. ONYEMAECHI AMAECHI

(FOR THEMSELVES AND ON BEHALF OF UMUAOHU-AZUEKE COMMUNITY NDUME – IBEKU)

 

RATIO

WHEN DOES A PLEA OF RES JUDICATA/ESTOPPEL ARISE?

“To succeed on the plea raised by the defendants they most prove that –

a. The parties in the two cases are the same.

b. That the issues in the two cases are the same.

c. That the subject matter is the same, and

d. That the court that decided the earlier dispute must be one of competent jurisdiction.”- per Ogundare, JSC.

WHO DOES THE BURDEN OF PROOF LIE ON?

“Each party is a plaintiff who has the burden to prove its case relying on the strength of that case rather than on the weakness of the case of the opposing party.”- per Ogundare, JSC.

 

M.E. OGUNDARE, JSC (Delivering the Judgement of the Court):

In suit No. HU/7/74, Abraham Agwu and Onyebuchi Amaechi, for themselves and as representing Umuohu-Azueke community of Ndume-Ibeku sued Onyemakfe Nwakwuruibe, Odum Awomukwu and Nmesirionye Obike in the Umuahia Judicial Division of the High Court of former East Central State, claiming:

“(a) Declaration of title to all that piece or parcel of land known as and called ‘Okpula Umuohu’ situate at Umuohu, Azueke, Ndume, Ibeku within the Umuahia Judicial Division – annual rental value N 10.00.

(b) N1,000.00 being special and general damages for trespass upon the said land.

(c) Injunction permanently restraining the defendants, their servants, agents and/or workmen from further entry upon or interference with the said land.”

The defendants were, with leave of court, allowed to defend as representatives of the Ihie community of Ndume – Ibeku. In another action, HU/8/74 instituted in the same court and about the same time, that is February, 1974, Obasi Ibenye and Nwazue Agbara, as plaintiff, sued Josiah Nzeako, Rufus Nwankire, Michael Maduka and Osu Nwagwu, as defendants, claiming-

“(a) a declaration of title to the piece or parcel of land known as and called ‘Ugwute’ situate at Ndume Ibeku in the Umuahia Judicial Division with annual rental value of N20.00;

(b) N1,000.00 damages for trespass on the said ‘Ugwute’ land;

(c) an injunction permanently to restrain the defendants, their agents, servants and or workmen from in any way interfering with the said land.”

Both sides sought and obtained leave of court to sue and defend as representatives of their respective communities, that is, Ihie and Umuohu.

Pleadings were ordered in each case, filed and exchanged. The parties, subject matters and claims being the same, the two actions on the application and with the consent of counsel for the parties, were by order of court consolidated with the parties in suit No. HU/7/74 being plaintiffs and defendants respectively in the consolidated suits.

Before trial commenced, learned counsel formulated issues which the trial court admitted as Exhibit 1. Seven witnesses testified for the plaintiffs and nine witnesses testified for the defence. At the conclusion of evidence the trial court inspected the land in dispute. Learned counsel for the parties addressed the court. In a reserved judgment, the learned trial Judge rejected the plea of res judicata raised by the defendants. He, however, found the case of the Umuohu-Azueke community not proved and dismissed their claims in HU/7/74. He found the case of the Ihie community proved and entered judgment in favour of their claims as modified by the learned Judge, in these terms:

“Clearly there is a preponderance of evidence in support of the finding that the ancestors of the plaintiffs in suit No. HU/8/74 i.e., the Ihie people granted parts of their Ugwute land to the ancestors of Umuohu people to make their home. This was how the settlement of Umuohu people in the land in dispute was established. There is no evidence that the Umuohu people extended beyond where they have lived or exercised any acts of ownership beyond that area. Indeed roughly south east of their settlement is a vast area of empty farmland which remains part of Ugwute land to Ihie people not granted to the Umuohu people. It includes the area verged pink in defendants’ plan Exhibit D. The plaintiffs in suit No. HU/8/74 are entitled to a declaration of title in their favour over all that parcel of vacant land adjacent the houses of Umuohu people and roughly south east of the Umuohu Azueke village settlement. They will not however for the reasons I have already stated be entitled to a declaration of title to the area where the Umuohu people have their houses in all that area roughly north-west of the vacant portion.

As for damages, nobody from the Ihie side has come forward to say that his crops were damaged. I am not satisfied that the Umuohu people caused any damages. However, in view of the posture by the Umuohu people that the land is theirs, I will make an order for permanent injunction restraining the defendants in suit No. HU/8/74 their relations, servants and/or agents from committing any acts of trespass in that vacant part of the land verged pink in their plan roughly south of where they live and which the court has found to be part of Ugwute land of the Ihie people.

In the final result the case of the plaintiffs in suit No. HU/7/74 is dismissed and judgment is hereby entered for plaintiffs in HU/8/74 for declaration of title and permanent injunction as declared above.”

The Umuohu community (hereinafter referred to as the plaintiffs) appealed against the judgment. The Ihie community (hereinafter referred to as the defendants) also cross-appealed against the dismissal of their plea of res judicata. The Court of Appeal, after hearing learned counsel on- the two appeals, dismissed the defendants’ cross-appeal and allowed the plaintiffs’ main appeal. The court, per Omosun, JCA., “set aside the judgment of Njibereako. J., dated 27th February, 1987 sitting at the Umuahia High Court. In its place, I enter judgment for the appellants as follows:

Customary right of occupancy to that piece or parcel of land known as and called ‘Okpula Umuohu’ situate at Umuohu Azueke verged pink in Exhibit ‘A’.

(ii) N1,000.00 special and general damages for trespass.

(iii)     Perpetual injunction restraining respondents, their servants or agents from committing further acts of trespass on the said land.

I award costs of N750.00 to the appellants in the court below and in this court N l, 200.00.

Being dissatisfied with the decision of the court below, the defendants appealed to this court; after obtaining the leave of this court to appeal on grounds other than law.   ‘

In accordance with the rules of this court, the parties filed and exchanged their respective written briefs of argument.

At the oral hearing of this appeal the plaintiffs were not represented by counsel. Being satisfied that hearing notice was sent to their counsel several months ago, we proceeded pursuant to Order 6 rule 8 (6) of the Rules of this court, to hear the appeal on the briefs filed by the panties and heard oral submissions from Mrs. Peter – Okoye, learned counsel for the defendants in expatiation of the points raised in the brief of the defendants.

The plaintiffs, in their respondents’ brief; raised preliminary objections to two of the grounds of appeal dealing with the issues of res judicata. The defendants filed a reply brief in which they responded to the submissions raised in support of the preliminary objections.

I need set out here the grounds of appeal to which specific objections have been raised by the plaintiffs. They, without their particulars, read:

“(i) The Court of Appeal erred in law and made a grave procedural error to the prejudice of the appellants in failing to take the cross-appeal in limine and/or as a threshold question (res judicata) but rather disposed of the main appeal purportedly on the merits and is effect allowed the main appeal before considering the cross-appeal relating to res judicata.

(ii) In view of the fact that the Court of Appeal clearly stated that ‘the only issue that arose for determination on the plea of res judicata was the identity of the land in dispute in 1929 and the one now in dispute’, the finding of the Court of Appeal that the land in the 1929 Native Court cases cannot be identified was manifestly unreasonable having regard to the materials before the court.”

On ground (1), it is contended that as the error in law and procedure alleged is in effect that since the cross-appeal related to res judicata, it should have been taken in limine or as a threshold question before dealing with the main appeal, such issue, it is contended; should have been raised in the court below and not in this court for the first time. Plaintiffs cite in their belief a number of authorities. For the defendants, it is contended in their reply brief that as the error complained of in ground (i) arose in the course of the judgment of the Court of Appeal, the place to complain is in the court.

I think the defendants are right. Two appeals came before the court below, that is, plaintiffs’ appeal on the merits of the case and the defendants’ cross-appeal on res judicata. The two appeals were argued together. The court below considered in its judgment first the main appeal and pronounced on it and next the cross-appeal which it dismissed. The defendants complained in the appeal before us that the court below was wrong to decide the main appeal before the merits of the case. It is this complaint the plaintiffs now say ought to have been raised first in the court below and not in this court for the first time. I think this objection is completely misconceived. How could an alleged error that arose in the course of the judgment of the court below be taken first in that court? Is it that the said error could have been anticipated? I think it is a matter of common sense that the complaint could only arise in this court. The objection is lacking in substance and it is refused.

I find no substance also in the objection to ground (ii) of the grounds of appeal. That a ground of appeal complains against concurrent findings of the two courts below is no reason for saying that such a ground is incompetent. The success or otherwise of such a ground of appeal is a matter to be decided on the merit after the issue formulated on the ground has been argued. It is not a matter for a preliminary objection, more so that the defendants were granted leave by this court to argue the ground of appeal.

I find the authorities cited by the plaintiffs in support of their preliminary objections just not apposite. The objections to the two grounds of appeal are hereby dismissed.

Three issues are set out in the defendants’ brief as arising for determination in this appeal. They are:

“(a) whether it was proper for the Court of Appeal to have considered and decided on the merits of the appeal before dismissing the issue of res judicata:

(b) whether the Court of Appeal ought not to have upheld the plea of res judicata:

(c) whether in the absence of a specific finding by the trial court on the parties’ conflicting traditional history, the Court of Appeal erred in not ordering a retrial of the case.”

The questions raised in the plaintiffs’ brief raise, in effect, the same issues. I shall adopt the issues as set out in the defendants’ brief.

Issue (a)

Under issue (a) the defendants complain that the court below was procedurally in error to have considered the question of res judicata raised in the cross-appeal before that of the merit of the case raised in the maw appeal. It is contended that by the procedure adopted by the court below it failed to give full consideration to the-plea of res judicata relied on by the defendants. It is further contended that by considering and upholding the merits of the main appeal before it, the court below rendered the consideration of the plea superfluous and its dismissal inevitable.

I see no merit in all these arguments. Two appeals came before the court below in this matter. That court, not being the final court, had to pronounce on each appeal. I don’t think it matters which appeal it pronounced on first. The success of the cross-appeal would not have deprived the court below of the duty to pronounce on the main appeal. See – Balogun v. Labiran (1988) 3 NWLR (Pt. 80) 66; (1988) 1 NSCC 1056, 1065. In any event I can see no miscarriage of justice resulting from the court below pronouncing on the merit of the main appeal before determining the cross-appeal. I, therefore, resolve issue (a) against the defendants.

Issue (b)

In paragraph 6(a) of their rather prolix statement of defence in suit No. HU/7/74, the defendants pleaded thus:

“6(a) In answer to paragraph 7 of the plaintiffs’ statement of claim the defendants say that neither the plaintiffs nor their ancestors before them have ever been owners in possession of the land in dispute at any material time, neither from time immemorial nor within living memory. It is also false that their rights hitherto had never been disputed. In 1925, the predecessors of the plaintiffs laid claim to the land in dispute wherein they committed various acts of trespass including harvesting palm fruits growing on the land in dispute. Chief Nnochiri Agbara, the head chief of the defendants, on behalf of the defendants’ people of Ihie sued the plaintiffs’ ancestors to the Olokoro Native Court in suits Nos. 874 to 877/29, JB 1/29. The Native Court declared title to the land in dispute to be in the defendants and awarded damages for trespass against the plaintiffs’ predecessors of Umuohu. The defendants shall raise as an issue for determination upon the trial of this action that the doctrine of ‘res judicata’ operates to stop the plaintiffs bringing this action in respect of the land in dispute. Although no plans were made in that suit in 1929 and although the plaintiffs chose to call the land in dispute the false name of ‘Okpula Umuohu’ yet the defendants shall show at the trial that the two pieces or parcels of land are one and the same land known as and called ‘Ugwute’ the subject matter of the 1929 cases.”

The plaintiffs’ version of the Olokoro Native Court case was pleaded in paragraph 9 of their statement of claim in suit No. HU/7/74. Paragraph 9 reads:

  1. The plaintiffs aver that sometime ago one Nwosu Udo a member of the plaintiffs’ village had no money with which to pay the cost of initiating him into the Okonko Society of Umuohu Azueke and in order to raise the necessary funds he pledged the land verged yellow in the plan filed with this statement of claim to the said Okonko Society Umuohu Azueke in lieu of cash payment and he was so initiated into the said Society and he became entitled to all the rights and obligations of the said Okonko Society. As time went on, the said Okonko Society denied the said Nwosu Udo the rights and obligations which he was hitherto entitled as such member because he had violated one of the rules of the said Okonko Society, namely, that a member must have a wife within 5 years of initiation which he failed to have. As a result of his ban from further participation in the Okonko Society and as a reprisal thereto, the said Nwosu Udo went to his mother’s brother called Isigwe Mmaju, a member of the defendants’ village of Ihie, and handed over the said land verged yellow in the plan to him, Isigwe Mmaju, and told him to harvest the oil palm trees and other economic trees thereon. The said Nwosu Udo took this step in order to prevent the Okonko Society from entering on the said land and harvesting the oil palm fruits which hitherto the said Okonko Society had been harvesting as a result of the pledge. The plaintiffs further aver that when Isigwe Mmaju entered upon the land verged yellow and harvested the oil palm fruits thereon the plaintiffs as a reprisal went into the defendants’ neighbouring land called “Ugwute’ land on the north-west of the plan outside the area verged green on the said plan and harvested the defendants’ oil palm fruits for which the defendants brought an action against the plaintiffs in the Native Court, Olokoro in or about 1927 claiming title to the said ‘Ugwute’ land and obtained judgment There has never been any court action between the plaintiffs and the defendants in respect of the portion of the land verged yellow in the plan.”

It is clear from the pleadings of the parties that they were not agreed on the identity of the land in dispute in the Olokoro Native Court case. To succeed on the plea raised by the defendants they most prove that –

  1. The parties in the two cases are the same.
  2. That the issues in the two cases are the same.
  3. That the subject matter is the same, and
  4. That the court that decided the earlier dispute must be one of competent jurisdiction.

See: Nwaneri v. Oriuwa (1959) 4 FSC 132; (1959) SCNLR 316; Alashe v. Olori Ilu (1964) 1 All NLR 390, (1964) ANLR 383; Esi v. Chief Secretary (1973) 11 SC. 189.

The Olokoro Native Court proceedings in suit JBI/29 was tendered in evidence in support of the pica of res judicata raised by defendants. After a perusal of the record and the evidence before him, the learned trial Judge found:

“At the end of the trial the court found for Ihie people and declared title to land called “Ugwute’ in their favour. But I have tried to identify from Exhibit E the precise area in question and I must confess that it is impossible to do so. Evidence of the boundaries was imprecise, true, the land in question was “Ugwute’. The Umuohu people were alleged to have harvested palm fruit in a part of the land. From Exhibit E that part cannot be identified. In the circumstance estoppel per rem iudicatam cannot be upheld.”

On appeal, the court below affirmed the above finding. The defendants have further appealed to this court.

Surely, unless the land in the 1929 case was the same as the land now in dispute, the plea cannot succeed. There was no evidence at the trial of the identity of the land in dispute in the 1929 case, other than Exhibit E, the proceedings in that case. As long ago as 1944 the West African Court of Appeal laid down the test to be applied where there is no plan, as in the Olokoro Native Court case, of the land in dispute. In Ate Kwadzo v. Robert Kwasi Adjei 10 WACA 274. the court said:

“The acid test is whether a surveyor taking the record could produce a plan showing accurately the land to which title has been given.”

I am in no doubt that Exhibit E cannot pass the test. The defendants admitted as much. In their brief it is written:

“In their statement of claim in suit HU/8/74, the appellants pleaded boundaries of Ugwute land, see para. 5, p. 69 record. These boundaries are as shown on Exh. C, plan No. E/GA80/75. The vital question is whether these boundaries tally with those proved in the 1929 case. In 1929, the plaintiffs’ evidence was simply that:

We have boundary on the land with the people of Umuana Ndume Quarter. There is Udo trees on the boundary between our people and Umuana Quarter. We also have boundary with the people of Umuezeala and Ohokobe Quarter. There is old road on the boundary between we and them.

Taken by itself, this may not be the epitome of a precise description”

It is, however, argued in the brief that –

“ but when it is noted that the court had found that the parties were disputing over the same area of land; that the appellants’ plan showed the existence of these same people on their boundaries; that certain features of the respondents’ plan, Exhibit A, (for instance the old road on the eastern boundary and the land of Umuana Ndume on the south-tallied with features shown on Exhibit C, (the appellants’ plan); it would then be seen that the converse of what the Court of Appeal held is more correct, i.e., that there is nothing to show that the Ugwute land subject of dispute in 1929 is different from that presently claimed by the appellants. Indeed, the balance of probabilities tilts towards the facts that the area roughly described by the witness, Nnochiri, in 1929 and that shown on the plan No. E/GA80/75 are the same. It must be noted that on the pleadings and the evidence the respondents’ contention was as follows: conceding that the 1929 case ended in appellants’ favour (see. p. 116, lines 17 – 20), that (1929) case was in respect of ‘Ugwute’, which land is distinct from ‘Okpulo Umuohu.’ Therefore, once the appellants had discharged on balance of probabilities the onus of showing that ‘Ugwute’ described by Nnochiri in 1929 is the same as ‘Ugwute’ land now in dispute, then the onus shifted to the respondents to show that ‘Ugwute’ and ‘Okpulo Umuohu’ are not the same plot. However, in order to do this successfully, the respondents must appeal and argue convincingly against the trial court’s findings that ‘Ugwute’ and ‘Okpulo Umuohu’ are one and the same plot. Neither of these were advanced before the Court of Appeal.”

I think the defendants completely misconceived the finding of fact made by the learned trial Judge. The Judge found:

“It becomes very important therefore to keep the correct area in dispute firmly in view. Let me stress that the area in dispute as shown in plaintiffs’ plan Exhibit A is same area as verged violet in the defendants’ plan Exhibit C. The plaintiffs call it ‘Okpulo Umuohu.’ The defendants call it ‘Ugwute’. It is one and the same parcel of land.”

What the Judge found as being the same was the land marked on plaintiffs’ plan as being in dispute in these proceedings and that shown on defendants’ plan as being in dispute. On defendants’ pleading and plan (Exhibit D) the land they call ‘Ugwute’ is a much larger area than the land in dispute in the present proceedings, part of which the plaintiffs conceded to the defendants.

The defendants, having failed to establish the identity of the land in dispute in the 1929 case, cannot be said to have discharged the burden on them to prove that the subject matter in that action was the same as the land now in dispute. Consequently, their plea of res judicata was rightly rejected by the courts below. I have no reason to disturb their concurrent fording of fact which I hereby affirm.

Issue (b) is also resolved against the defendants.

Issue (c)

For their root of title to the land in dispute the plaintiffs pleaded thus in their statement of claim in HU/7/74:

“4. The plaintiffs aver that Ohu, one of the sons of Ndume was the founder of the plaintiffs’ village called Umuohu Azueke of which the land in dispute forms part. Ohu had 3 male issues called Okorie, Ndu and Ologho. These 3 sons constituted 3 large families of Umuohu Azueke called Umuowasi, Umuokpo and Amaokwe respectively. The 1st plaintiff belongs to the large family of Umuokpo and the 2nd plaintiff belongs to the large family of Umuowasi. Each and every other member of the community of Umuohu Azueke belongs to one of these 3 large families. When Ohu founded this village of Umuohu Azueke he sent his said 3 sons to live there as will be shown hereinafter. It was the said 3 sons who cleared the virgin forest of Umuohu Azueke and built their dwelling houses and farmed thereon.

5. The plaintiffs aver that apart from Ohu Ndume who himself was the son of Otuka had other sons namely:- Ana, Lodu, Afai, Due, Ohokobe, Ezeala. The villages in which these sons of Ndume lived were named after them, namely- Umuana, the capital village of Ndume, Lodu, Umuafai, Ihie, Ohokobe, Umuhute, Ofeke, Umuaroko, Umuezeala, Umuohu also known as Umuohu Okpula to distinguish it from Umuohu Azueke. The plaintiffs’ village of Umuohu Azueke was an off-shoot of Umuohu Okpula but now a distinct village therefrom.

6. The plaintiffs further aver that many many years ago when other clans of Ibo land used to wage war against Ndume it became necessary that certain parts of Ndume should be reinforced by posting people there. Ohu contributed his 3 sons named in paragraph 4 of this statement of claim and quartered them at the place now known as Umuohu Azueke of which the land in dispute forms part. Ana from Umuana village contributed his own people and quartered them at the place now known as Umuhute. Afai from Umuafai village quartered his people at Umuaroko and Ohokobe from Ohokobe village and Ezeala from Umuezeala village quartered their own people at Ofeke. These villages of Umuohu Azueke, Umuhute, Umuaroko and Ofeke are collectively called ‘Azueke’. The 4 villages have stretches of lands far beyond their said villages and the plaintiffs’ village of Umuohu Azueke has its own communal lands on both sides of the Umuahia – Ikot Ekpene road shown on the plan and particularly on the left hand side of the said road up to and beyond the Fisher High School (formerly called the Government College) down to the stream which crosses this main road. These 4 villages of Azueke including the plaintiffs’ village of Umuohu Azueke are district villages of Ndume and are entitled to share equally in all things and all rights due to the sons and villages of Ndume and are exclusive owners of the communal lands which they now own, possess and occupy as of right.

7. The plaintiffs aver that the plaintiffs and their predecessors have been the owners in possession of the land in dispute from time immemorial and that the defendants and the defendants’ ancestors have hitherto never disputed the plaintiffs’ right of ownership and possession thereof. As acts of ownership and possession of the land in dispute the plaintiffs live on it, built their houses on it, as shown on the plan filed with this statement of claim. The plaintiffs have been farming on the land in dispute as long as human memory can go and have been harvesting economic trees such as kolanut, oil palm, raffia palm, cocoa, pear, ukwa, oil bean, plantain, banana trees which they planted thereon or which grew wild without any interruption by the defendants or their forefathers. Here in the land in dispute are found the plaintiffs’ shrines such as ‘Iyite shrine’, Alaezi Umuowasi shrine’, Alaezi Umuokpukwu shrine’, ‘Ihukamalu shrine’ of Umuohu, ‘Ihuekpe shrine’ of Umuohu, Ihuokonko shrine’ of Umuohu, ’Ihu Mboko shrine’ of Umuohu, ‘Ama’ Umuohu Azueke”

The defendants, for their part, pleaded in their statement of claim in HU/8/ 74 as hereunder:

“6 (i) The plaintiffs who are owners in possession of the land in dispute are the descendants of Ndume. Ndume had four sons namely: Ana the ancestor of Umuana Ndume village, Ohokobe the ancestor of Ohokobe Ndume village, Ihie the ancestor of Ihie Ndume village (the plaintiffs) and Afai the ancestor of Umuafai Ndume village. Ana, Ihie and Afai were of the same mother while Ohokobe was from a different mother.

(ii) (a) The sub villages of Ofeke Ndume, Umuhute Ndume, Lodu Ndume and Umuaroko Ndume came into being during a certain war when for strategic reasons Ndume people decided to station some of their men to guard the gateways leading to Ndume against external warriors.

(b) Some Umuana people occupied and settled at a place near Ndume’s border with Bende called Umuhu and they later became known as Umuhute Ndume.

(c) Some Umuafai people were settled at a place called ‘Aroko’ and they later became known as Umuaroko Ndume.

(d) Some Umuana people were settled at a place called ‘Lodu’ and are referred to as the people of Lodu Ndume.

(e) Some Ohokobe people (which includes Umuezeala Ohokobe, a compound of Ohokobe) and some Umuafai people were settled in a place called ‘Efe Eke’ and later became known as Ofeke Ndume. The people at Efe Eke were specially to protect a neighbouring village known as Ogbagu which was nearly extinguished by the war and which for the same reason became annexed as a part of Ndume. The lands of Ndume were shared among the children of his two wives with Ana and his two brothers taking one share while Ohokobe took the other. The portions belonging to Ana’s mother’s section was subsequently re-shared among his sons with Ana having the lion share.

(f) Ana, lhie and Afai had common boundaries between them and all share common boundaries with Ohokobe.

(g) The land in dispute was Ihie’s share of the land at Ugwute with Ana having the remaining portion.

7 (a) By Ibeku custom a person could purchase a slave, emancipate him and make him to belong to his family. This was also the case with respect to war captives who could be re-settled in the home of the captors. The owners of the slave during his life time made grants of land and other property to the emancipated slave since upon his death the slave could not share in his property with his male children, although if he died without an heir, the emancipated slave could inherit his property.

(b) One of the sons of Ohokobe called Okoro Anyim bought a handsome slave called Akpu from the area. He emancipated him and settled him on a portion of his land at Ohokobe. He also bought two brothers who were natives of Ababa near Uzuakoli. One was light and the other was dark in complexion. He called them ‘Ahaba Ocha’ and ‘Ahaba Oji’ to distinguish them and also emancipated and settled them in the same area as Akpu was settled. They all became known as Umuohu Okoro Anyim and existed as part of Umuokoro Anyim of Ohokobe, Ndume.

(c) (i) Akpu became the ancestor of Umuakpu Compound of Umuohu

(ii) Ahaba Ocha became the ancestor of the Compound known as Ahaba Ocha in Umuohu; and

(iii) Ahaba Oji became the ancestor of the Compound known as Ababa Oji in Umuohu.

8 (a) In the life time of Okoro Anyim, he granted the people of Umuohu other portions of land apart from their place of habitation for example, he granted them a portion of his land at Uzo Eke Ndume, another portion at Efe Eke Ndume and some portion near Eghem land in Ohokobe for farming purposes.

 

COUNSELS

G.U.E. Peter-Okoye (Mrs.), for the Appellants

Respondents absent and unrepresented.

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